Today's Paper

Private players may run rail lines

The Union government is open to the idea of giving operations of railway lines to private players for enhancing competition, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said in an interview.

“It’s an exciting proposition. We will be able to generate competition in the process and improve customer satisfaction,” Mr. Goyal told The Hindu on board the Mahanama Express train, launched between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s old constituency in Vadodara and his present one in Varanasi on Friday, ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections.

The Railways are the largest transportation network in the world, running 12,000 trains a day over 65,000 route km.

Various models

Mr. Goyal, who took charge of the Railway Ministry on September 4 after Suresh Prabhu resigned following a string of derailments, said he was studying various models for attracting more private players.

No cap on safety funds

Claiming that he was willing to spend unlimited funds on safety, he said clearing the backlog for track renewal would be the focus, and a zero accident rate would be an aspiration. “In my working, there is no budget for safety. Whatever (fund) is required we will spend,” Mr. Goyal said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe recently laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai sector worth Rs. 1.08 lakh crore.

Mr. Goyal is also re-tuning policy to attract private companies for modernising railway stations. To begin with, the Railways have decided to do away with the ‘Swiss Challenge’ model of awarding railway stations to private players and taken a slew of measures to lease out at least 100 stations.